Finding California's Gold... in California Food

KCET is celebrating its 50th anniversary year with a series of stories, reflections, and flashbacks, like this throwback below. For more and to participate in our next 50 years, join us at

I am a broadcaster.

Consequently, each April, I find myself crossing the desert, on my way to Las Vegas and the National Association of Broadcasters convention. This particular trip brought about a dilemma: Where to stop for food on our way back? Our usual go-to location, Bun Boy in Baker, had closed. Instead, what we decided to do is visit Peggy Sue's 50's Diner just north of Barstow at the Yermo Annex.

Peggy Sue's Menu | Photo Cathy Bower

I had been here years ago, and it was basically the same now: The food and the service were top-notch and the music and atmosphere is pure '50s. When I picked up the menu, I saw that there was a menu item called the "Huell Howser Hawaiian Honey Ham & Pineapple Cheeseburger." Intrigued, I decided to try it and I was pleased with my purchase. The waitress mentioned that the late Huell Howser, would stop by quite often in his travels and he even owned the infamous Volcano House in nearby Newberry Springs.

New Series 'Father Brown' Kicks Off KCET's 'Whodunit Sundays'

Any longtime fan of public television will agree that if there must be murder, it should at least be solved by charming British people.

It's on that note that we're proud to present KCET's new Whodunit Sundays, which feature three British murder mystery shows back-to-back-to-back. New series "Father Brown" will be hopping into the 8 p.m. Sunday slot, taking the place of "Foyle's War," and it will be joined by "Inspector George Gently" and "Rosemary and Thyme." That's three rounds of classic detective work -- and enough British accents to satisfy even the biggest Anglophile among us.

This Week on 'Visiting With Huell Howser' -- Governor's Mansion and Ackermansion

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Find out what classic episodes of "Visiting" are airing on KCET this week! Read more about KCET's Huell-centric programming here and share your memories of Huell with other fans here.

Monday @ 7:30PM -- "Governor's Mansion"

Huell gets a behind-the-scenes look at the Governor's Mansion in Sacramento. We'll get a special tour from Kathleen Brown, who lived in the house as a teenager.

Tuesday @ 7:30PM -- "Ackermansion"

Huell takes a special tour of Forrest Ackerman's home, which is a shrine to and museum of sci-fi and horror memorabilia. The self-described inventor of the term "sci-fi," Dr. Ackula (as he liked to be called), boasted over 300,000 items from genre films, books and TV shows. He was also a literary agent, and editor of numerous fanzines. Best of all, he opened his house to the public. (Note: Ackerman passed away in 2008 and the museum is no longer operational.)

KCET -- A Proud History of News, Part Two

Hugh Hewitt, Patt Morrison, Rubén Martinez | Life & Times 1993

KCET is celebrating its 50th anniversary year with a series of stories, reflections, and flashbacks, like this throwback below. For more and to participate in our next 50 years, join us at

In January of 1992, we launched "Life & Times." It ran for 15 straight years, through some of the most turbulent times in Los Angeles. The show was designed by Jim Kennedy, who was a wonderful man. I remember him presenting his idea for the show to us on staff. We would have news on Monday and Friday and taped pieces on Tuesday through Thursday. The original hosts for the "in studio" episodes were Hugh Hewitt, Patt Morrison and John Ochoa. Almost immediately, our new show went through its baptism of fire. The L.A. Riots started in April of 1992 and around that time, Rubén Martinez joined the team. I remember that the news show went live daily, trying to make sense of the chaos. It was a extremely hard time for our hosts and our new production team, but they kept plugging away. We had our own problems during those riots, because KCET's lot was located right across the street from the Circuit City that got looted. It was not easy staying on the air, or for that matter, having access to the lot itself. Like the City of L.A., we all managed to make it through that time.

'Borgen' Wins a Peabody Award

All those anxious Danish faces should have reason to look happy, because "Borgen" has won a Peabody Award! It was announced on Wednesday that the Danish-produced political drama, whose second season is currently airing in the U.S. on KCET and on Link TV, had won. Among other series lauded this year were "Breaking Bad," the Netflix remake of "House of Cards," "Orange Is the New Black," "Scandal," and "Orphan Black." See the full list of winners here.

Tune in to the next episode of "Borgen" on KCET on Monday at 10 p.m. And catch up with the previous two episodes on here. Haven't started watching yet? Get up to speed with our recaps for the whole series.

Everything You Need to Know About 'Stand Up Planet'

So what is this show about?

"Stand Up Planet" is a documentary TV show and digital series that showcases life in some of the toughest places on Earth through the lens and experiences of stand-up comics. Hollywood comedian Hasan Minhaj takes you to bustling Mumbai and India to meet up-and-coming comedians. Their humor helps you learn about their homelands in striking ways. It's equal parts reality TV, documentary and travelogue. Check out the trailer to see Minhaj and the other comedians in action:

KCET -- A Proud History of News, Part One

Jeffrey Kaye and Clete Roberts | KCET Newsbeat

KCET is celebrating its 50th anniversary year with a series of stories, reflections, and flashbacks, like this throwback below. For more and to participate in our next 50 years, join us at

KCET has had a proud news history of reporting news. My personal knowledge goes back only to "28 Tonight," but this tradition went all the way back to the start. KCET has always taken news very seriously and continues to do so under our current president, Al Jerome. As a matter of fact, our new season of "SoCal Connected" is gearing up as I write this post, so I thought I'd take a look back at a few of those shows, many of which have featured Val Zavala, KCET's Vice President of News & Public Affairs as well as the longtime anchor of "SoCal Connected," in integral roles.

"28 Tonight"
In the late 70s, KCET had "28 Tonight," which lasted from around 1976 until 1981. I think they may have shot the remote pieces on film, until we finally got some video remote cameras in the late 70s. Because I wasn't working at the station at that point, it is hard for me to pinpoint when we did the switch over to tape. What I do know is I saw reels and reels of news footage in our vaults when I arrived. As with most news shows that we do, "28 Tonight" was usually a hybrid between a live in-studio segment and the remote taped pieces. Clete Roberts was a part of that studio team for "28 Tonight," as I mentioned in my post on The Flying Wing story.

"KCET Newsbeat with Clete Roberts"
1981 brought along a huge increase in production funding, and so "KCET Newsbeat with Clete Roberts" was created. It lasted until June 1982, when it was canceled due to the financial disaster and a lack of funds. It was live five days a week and then on Fridays, we also shot a show called "L.A. Week in Review" that caught viewers up on the news of the week. Reporter Jeffrey Kaye was one of the studio reporters and he went on to do other shows for us and eventually to join the "MacNeil/Lehrer Newshour" as their L.A. reporter.

Huell Howser's Videologs

At a get-together we had after the death of Huell Howser, former KCET station manager Stephen Kulczycki said he came to Los Angeles to begin rebuilding our news presence after the financial disaster. He arrived in 1983 and began to look for things he could do with a small budget. One of the first things he did was hire Huell Howser, who had wanted to move on from KNXT, where he was shooting little "Happy News" pieces. He brought his idea to KCET and Stephen hired him in 1985, to make the now-famous Videolog fillers. These aired throughout our schedule, to give us an inexpensive local presence. (Read more about the Videologs here.)

Stephen created a quarterly news show called "KCET Journal" that did one-hour, in-depth documentaries about subjects of interest. During the mid-80s we produced "Turning Points," in which we followed someone at a critical point in their life. One installment profiled a young mother deciding whether to keep her baby or give it up for adoption. It was a novel concept. Jon Wilkman, the producer of "Turning Points," also worked on a three-year history series called "The Los Angeles History Project." William Mulholland, Central Avenue and Harris Newmark's Los Angeles were among the subjects covered. KCET produced a total of 12 episodes.

"California Stories" and "7:30" came along in 1988. "California Stories" was a half-hour show that dealt with a wide range of subjects, including arts and science stories. Roger Bingham, Teya Ryan, Peter Graumann, were some of the producer/reporters who worked on shows. "7:30," meanwhile, gave us back a five-minute nightly news presence at 7:30 p.m. each evening.

In July of 1989 "California Stories" ended and morphed into little daily pieces called "Take Five." There were Take Five Arts" and "Take Five Science," and Huell Howser's shorts became "Take Five Videolog." This addition gave Videolog a set time to air, which helped Huell get more regular viewership and ratings for the first time. I am sure it helped him get traction with his idea for a show that he pitched to the other California stations later on that year. That show would be "California's Gold".

"By the Year 2000"
The late 80s brought about a novel idea for a news show. "By the Year 2000" was news, but it was news that was designed to show things that would be issues in the new millennium: for example, population growth, housing prices, demographic changes, air quality. All the things that Southern California would be facing, over the next decade. Val Zavala and Eric Burns were the hosts of the show. Shortly thereafter, Eric Burns left and Joseph Benti came on board and what a great addition to the team, he was. Joseph Benti was a wonderful person, and I remember him with great fondness.

As I am going back through the years, it's the people who I have worked with and the ones I work with now who are the reason why I come here every day. I have personally had the pleasure of working with some of the absolute best in the business and I wouldn't trade it for anything.

I'll cover the rest of KCET's news history in a follow-up to this piece. I hope you stick around, as I bring you our longest-running news program, "Life & Times," and more!

This is another in a series of posts in which Cathy Bower, KCET's broadcast operations coordinator, looks back at some interesting moments and events during the station's 50 years on the air. Read more entries here.

That's Amazing! Chapman University Opens Permanent Huell Howser Exhibit

Huell Howser | Photo: Bohdan Zachary

KCET is celebrating its 50th anniversary year with a series of stories, reflections, and flashbacks, like this throwback below. For more and to participate in our next 50 years, join us at

Shortly before Huell Howser died in 2013, he gave his entire life's work to Chapman University. He wanted his show "California's Gold" to have a life after he retired from producing it. And now Chapman has posted the episodes online, for anyone in the world to view. The school celebrated this achievement on Thursday, March 27, with the official opening of the Huell Howser Archive and Exhibit.

The Auto Club of Southern California commissioned "A Golden State of Mind: The Storytelling Genius of Huell Howser," a behind-the-scenes video that celebrated the life of Huell and that was screened at the event. It provided an amazing look at the person who held the microphone all those years. Huell Hower had a unique style of interviewing his subjects, and this movie showed him in action: how he would make people open up to him and where he found the subjects he profiled. (Many times, Huell would simply pass something of interest as he was driving and then just stop in.) Other subjects came from tips they would receive in the mail, or something found in the newspapers or books Huell and his team would be reading. He never knew where his next show was coming from, but he had extreme confidence that something would turn up. He was never wrong. Case in point: he had several shows ready to go when he became too ill to continue to work.

President James L. Doti of Chapman University at Huell Hoswer screening | Photo: Cathy Bower
The Chapman University President James L. Doti led us through the evening's events.
He showed us videos of events that took place earlier in the day, like the ribbon-cutting at the exhibit and the unveiling of Chapman's Dodge College Star for Huell Howser. (Think of a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame and put it at Chapman.) I had forgotten that Huell was given a posthumous honorary doctorate degree from Chapman in 2013, which made him eligible for this honor.

Doti then introduced Bob Bouttier, president of the Auto Club of Southern California, a long-time partner with Huell Howser, especially with his series "Road Trip," which was about day trips close to the Los Angeles area. Huell had also written articles that turned up in Westways, the Auto Club magazine.The club not only funded the movie and the reception, but it also created a wonderful map of the many places that Huell Howser visited while making his almost 2,000 episodes. People who are attending the Saturday screenings of the film (which are all sold out) may receive a copy of the map.

There were around 200 people invited to this reception. On the production end were several former Huell Howser employees, most of whom turned up in the film. There was Ryan Morris, Huell's assistant; Phil Noyes, his producer; Michael Garber, his editor; and of course, Luis "Louie" Fuerte, his cameraman. It was wonderful to see people I had worked with for years, and in some cases for decades. (Huell's Cameraman in the later years, Cameron Tucker, appears in the film but did not attend last night's event.)

Huell Howser Exhibit at Chapman University | Photo: Cathy Bower

When we finally were finished with the screening, we were invited down to the exhibit and archives. We saw his office, memorabilia from many of the subjects of his shows, a very interesting timeline of his life and the shows he produced. The map you see on the floor in the photo, has every location in which Huell produced an episode. The funniest thing (at least, to me) was that they have on display,the shirt that Huell wore in the iconic "poppy field" photo.

It is definitely worth the visit. The exhibit is permanent and you can come see it. Check the hours on the Chapman Website, before you head down. In all, it was a great event and a worthy tribute to a man whose death was a major loss to the people of California. There are so many stories still to be told and maybe through this archive, the adventure will continue for a new generation. That was Huell's hope, and it's mine too.

There is a place in this world for "happy news," as Huell proved over and over again.

This is another in a series of posts where Cathy Bower, KCET's Broadcast Operations Coordinator, looks back at some interesting moments and events during the station's 50 years on the air. Read more entries here.

Huell Howser's Videolog Reunion 1988

 Videolog Reunion | Photo by Cathy Bower 1988

KCET is celebrating its 50th anniversary year with a series of stories, reflections, and flashbacks, like this throwback below. For more and to participate in our next 50 years, join us at

I don't go to many events, but once in a while something strikes me as important enough to try to change that. Huell Howser's Videolog Reunion felt like one of those occasions. He spent the better part of the '80s documenting interesting people and subjects on short fillers called Videologs. The shorts varied from around three minutes long to almost eight (for the Elephant Man's story). Just before he launched his new series "California's Gold," Huell decided in late 1988 to bring all these people together at the Bullocks Tea Room and to have a party to celebrate those Videologs that we all knew so well.

The Bullocks Tea room was the top floor of the Bullocks Wilshire Building located in the mid-Wilshire District of Los Angeles, which is now owned by the Southwestern Law School. It was the perfect place to have this event, with the Tea Room itself harking back to an older, kinder and gentler Los Angeles.

They were all there, or so it seemed. The Elephant Man, The Yogurt Man, The L.A. Times String Lady, The Cobbler Man, with lots of cobbler for us to eat. The Del Rubio Triplets (guitars in hand) were there to sing for us, too. I was in heaven.

Huell brought Louie his cameraman along that day. You can read more about Luis, here.

Videolog Reunion | Photo by Cathy Bower 1988

From this event, Huell made a 30-minute show that only aired (I believe) one time, on December 29, 1988. I know that if it had aired more times, I probably would have watched it again and again. There was no way you could see everyone and make the connection between them and what their Videolog show was about. There are things that are burned in my memory though.

The Yogurt Man, who made yogurt every day in his oven at home, was over 100 years old and had a handshake that felt like iron! I couldn't believe it and neither could my husband. We shook hands out back, in the parking lot of the building. He seemed like a very kind man.

The parking lot was also where we got to see the Del Rubio Triplets, who were three identical triplets who sang for a living. I saw them drive off in their old blue car. I had heard that they performed at nursing homes, for just gas money and seeing them in that old car confirmed that. I should have taken a photo.

The Cobbler Man's cobbler was the most wonderful thing. William Gore Sr. used honey in his recipe, instead of sugar and that definitely made a difference. It was so good, that it turned up at a couple of KCET parties over the months that followed. Here is the old Cobbler Man Videolog to check out.

I also remember the fake food guys from Iwasaki Images of America. They were giving out fake food and mine ended up being a very realistic strawberry, which I had on my desk at work for years after. I can attest to the fact that they make first-rate fake foods.

I have a memory that The Elephant Man, Charlie Franks, was there. It is a hazy one, but I believe he was so old by then, that he just sat at a table and held court. His story about him and Nita the elephant is probably the most well-known of the Videlogs. He died less than a year later, in August of 1989. Check out this poignant Elephant Man Videolog.

It was a wonderful afternoon, Huell as you can see, was at his best, enjoying a gathering that only he could have put together. There were balloons made by one of his videolog subjects and I still have mine... but I don't dare even try to blow the thing up. Maybe it's just better seeing it in photos.

This is another in a series of posts where Cathy Bower, KCET's Broadcast Operations Coordinator, looks back at some interesting moments and events during the station's 50 years on the air. Read more entries here.

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